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GOP at a crossroads

Published 11:07am Saturday, December 1, 2012

A fine Virginia public servant threw in the political towel this week, raising anew a question asked often since the Nov. 6 presidential election: Are Republicans more interested in rigid ideology than in winning elections?

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s decision to abandon his 2013 gubernatorial bid before it ever got started crystallizes the conundrum facing the modern Republican Party.

Center-right candidates like Bolling who can win elections in center-right states like Virginia and a center-right country like America cannot do so because they can’t get their own party’s nomination — unless they are willing to pander to hardliners on issues that will get a Republican mugged in a general election.

Bolling saw the handwriting on the wall when state party operatives last summer chose to nominate their 2013 gubernatorial nominee at a convention rather than in a primary. It was a move clearly calculated to nominate Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a darling of the Tea Party who infuriated Bolling and party moderates by bucking the GOP pecking order and declaring his candidacy for governor. Bolling, ever the team player, had patiently waited his turn behind Bob McDonnell. Cuccinelli was unwilling to do the same.

Much emphasis has been placed on the GOP decision to hold a convention rather than a primary, but the truth is that Bolling was doomed in either. He would have had a slightly better chance in a primary, but the nomination process is stacked in favor of ideologues like Cuccinelli.

Activists pick primary winners. Independents, and moderates in both parties, decide general elections.

Cuccinelli might win the governorship anyway, but if he does, it will be because of a weak Democratic opponent in Terry McAuliffe. Had popular U.S. Sen. Mark Warner sought the job and carried the Democratic banner, Cuccinelli wouldn’t have had a chance.

The influence of the Tea Party — and related marginalization of Republicans — has renewed the age-old question of whether a third party can be viable in this country.

Bolling, in announcing his decision this week, left cracked the door to an independent candidacy for governor next November.

In the end, he’s probably too loyal a Republican to take the risk, but Bolling the independent would test an interesting theory: that swing-state moderates might just coalesce around a platform of job creation, smaller government and deference to individual preference on social issues to form a winning coalition at the ballot box.

  • handkusp45

    The Tea Party is the only thing that at least somewhat seperates the republicans from the democrats. I agree that the Tea party and the Christian Right are not the same. However they have more in common than the other groups. Of course the republican establishment is trying to hold on to their power. If they would yield to the right they would win elections. As long as their is no difference between the two major parties the dems will win. They offer more free stuff.

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  • mmtwinsmom

    As much as I value your opinion, I have to differ with you slightly about the Tea Party. They seem to get very bad publicity from the media and I believe it was created by the left to take them down. The Tea Party is about smaller government and job creation. They were your final points about Bolling as a candidate.

    I don’t like it when the Tea Party is confused or represented as the Christian right. They are two different groups and some may share the same values. The Tea Party is the smaller government party.

    I personally love it when the conservative right doesn’t give in to the Progressive left. They would never dream of giving an inch unless they did not have Congressional support. That is the only way they are ever forced to come to the middle.

    Why should the Right come to an agreement of more spending and tax increases that will hurt our economy more. I hope they hold their ground.

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    • vapolitico

      So according to Mr. Stewart, political nominations should be about waiting in a line until it is your turn rather than what the party members want? Sounds like an aristocracy rather than a democracy!

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